The conception of sovereignty in 1762 - the year Jean Jacques Rousseau published
On the Social Contract
- was undergoing fundamental changes. Historically, the Americanand French revolutions were at least a decade distant, but the intellectual upheavalforeshadowed the political violence that would ensue. Jean Jacques Rousseau provided aninfluential and provocative voice in the debate over the nature of legitimate politicalorganization. He built upon the work of predecessors, both classical and contemporary,synthesizing ancient ideals with modern thought and thus challenged the prevailingconceptions of sovereignty. Fundamentally, his works sought to solve the problem of howto make supreme rule
.The interactions of interests, institutions and individuals are of concern here;specifically how these factors were aligned and ordered by Rousseau to create justpolitical principles. To begin, a definition of sovereignty will be established. From this, itwill be shown how Rousseau constructed a legitimate sovereign state – beginning withpre-social individuals and their need for a great legislator to form a population into apeople. Subsequently, how the individual will is found in society and how it must be‘denatured’ through
and education for the general will to emerge. Only from aproperly constructed and respected general will can the laws, and thus the government, be formed that will institutionalize the proper political alignment. Therefore, only inobserving Rousseau’s path from an individual in relation to nature, to individuals inrelation to others, through persons united in a general will, finally, to
generatingand obeying a system of laws can a nation be called sovereign, free and equal.